To the Editor:
The following statement was developed last December by the Island Clergy Association in response to specific incidents that had taken place earlier last year. As a response to and perhaps a continuation of Dr. Collier’s letter of Jan. 14, we, the undersigned, wish to state:
We issue the following statement as leaders in the Martha’s Vineyard faith community in response to the recent rise in incidences of hateful words and acts against our neighbors, including people of color, immigrants, Jews and the LGBTQ community. We speak in response to the recent desecration of the Israeli flag at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation in Falmouth and in response to the anti-gay hate stickers that have been placed on several Island houses of worship that fly the rainbow flag.
We state unequivocally that we and our various religious traditions are united against hatred and discrimination, and that we stand together in respecting the dignity of every human being.
We make this statement in our current climate of rancor and divisiveness that many of us have not seen since the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. We are deeply concerned by the erosion of civility and the current trend that relegates those who disagree to a demonized other, one whose voice and opinions are not worth listening to.
We are as concerned and more by the motivations and actions of those who have taken their ideology to the next step of doing harm to others through their speech or actions. We acknowledge that people, often religiously or ideologically motivated, may disagree and hold differing views concerning the beliefs and actions of others.
We contend that all people have the right to appropriately express their opinions, both privately and publicly, if done so respectfully, in appropriate contexts, and without stipulating acquiescence or agreement or explicitly provoking malicious and abusive speech or violence.
Furthermore, we recognize that to use hateful speech or commit an act that denigrates another human being, or worse, in addition to the damage inflicted on that individual or group, does harm to those who take such action.
As human beings and as people who live on this Island, we know that we have more in common than divides us. Together we state our own and our faiths’ enduring core principle that each human being is created in the image of the Divine, is worthy of respect, and has inherent dignity.
The Rev. Stephen Harding, rector, Grace Church, Vineyard Haven
The Rev. Cathlin Baker, minister, First Congregational Church of West Tisbury
The Rev. Bill Clark, minister, Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard
Rabbi Lori Shaller, Island Clergy Association
Rabbi Caryn Broitman, Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center
The Rev. Charlotte Wright, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Armen Hanjian, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Victoria Hanjian
The Rev. Vincent G. (“Chip”) Seadale, rector, St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Edgartown
The Rev. Mary Beth Daniels, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Ernest Belisle, minister, Chilmark Community Church
The Rev. Robert Barnett, pastor, Faith Community Church
The Rev. David Christensen, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Sharon Eckhardt, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Philip Dietterich, Island Clergy Association
Clark Hanjian, Buddhist chaplain, Island Insight Meditation Community
The Rev. Dr. Leo D. Christian, First Baptist Church Vineyard Haven and Community Baptist Church of Gay Head
The Rev. Matthew B. Splittgerber, Vineyard Assembly of God
The Rev. Richard S. DenUyl Jr., Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Michael Nagle, Good Shepherd Parish, Martha’s Vineyard
The Rev. Karl G. Buder, Good Shepherd Parish, Martha’s Vineyard
Rabbi Brian Walt, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Jill De La Hunt, Island Insight Meditation Community
The Rev. Hyuk Seonwoo, minister, United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard